Venezuela’s Opposition Swears in "Supreme Court in Exile" from Washington

Venezuela’s opposition declared its own Supreme Court Friday, claiming the official courts are no longer legitimate.

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OAS head Luis Almagro addresses the swearing-in ceremony of the Venezuelan opposition’s unofficial Supreme Court. (El Nacional)
OAS head Luis Almagro addresses the swearing-in ceremony of the Venezuelan opposition’s unofficial Supreme Court. (El Nacional)
By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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Puebla, Mexico, October 13, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s opposition declared its own Supreme Court Friday, claiming the official courts are no longer legitimate.

The court in exile was sworn in during a ceremony in Washington, with the unofficial judges vowing to use their positions as a platform against Venezuela’s Maduro administration.

“As a mechanism of international pressure against the dictatorship established in Venezuela, the unprecedented decision was made to install a Supreme Court of Justice [TSJ] in exile,” the judges said in a statement.

The swearing-in ceremony took place at the headquarters of the Organisation of American States (OAS), but was largely ignored by regional diplomats and the Maduro administration itself. Venezuela’s regional allies and critics alike have dismissed the event as unorthodox, though OAS head Luis Almagro welcomed the move.

"The installation of this TSJ opens the way to recover democracy in Venezuela,” he said.

In his remarks, Almagro likewise voiced support for tougher sanctions against Caracas, which he said is the "way to bring the Venezuelan regime to his knees". US financial sanctions, announced in late August, have proven unpopular among Venezuelans, with 51.6 percent of the population rejecting the measure, according to the conservative think tank Datanalisis. 

Also present at the ceremony were the former opposition mayors of Chacao and El Hatillo, Ramon Muchacho and David Smolansky. Both men fled to the US after being sentenced to 15 months imprisonment in August for their failure to reign in violent anti-government protests in their municipalities. Shortly after President Trump's controversial military threats against Venezuela, Muchacho called US armed intervention in his country "inevitable". 

The de facto judges were first appointed by the opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN) in July, after legislators declared the official TSJ illegitimate. The controversy surrounding the court began in late 2015, when the previous pro-Maduro, lame duck AN appointed new judges shortly after legislative elections in December that year. The opposition has since accused the previous AN of acting improperly, and declared the TSJ illegitimate. Since then, the AN and TSJ have repeatedly butted heads, with the courts striking down most major pieces of opposition legislation.

The unofficial court will reportedly session in a private office within the OAS building as well as in Colombia, where it will hold its next meeting. 

With additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Caracas. 

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